Albums require incredible effort, vision and thought to craft. Most people cannot craft albums, they make songs and put them on an album. The few ones who can craft albums get accolades and critical acclaim.
2019 has been an incredible year in Nigerian music. Albums have become a cliche and ‘unimportant’ part of artistry in Nigerian music. Davido, one of Nigeria’s flagship acts only released his second album in 10 years. Yet, he’s been one of the best Nigerian artists of the decade.
Albums are still the prime platforms to showcase musicianship and artistry. Whether one likes it or not, albums are also an important part of an artist’s career. They require incredible effort, vision and thought to craft. Most artists cannot craft albums, they make songs and put them on an album.
The few ones who can craft albums get accolades and critical acclaim. In 2019, Nigerian music has seen a ridiculous amount of great albums (including EPs). To pick just 10 was hard work, but we had to pick the best.
The albums picked are those released between December 1, 2018 and November 31, 2019. Criteria includes and is limited to; Critical acclaim, reception, impact (if any) and commercial success (added advantage).
Asa - LUCID
After a five-year hiatus, Nigerian songbird extraordinaire returned with her fourth album titled, LUCID. Asa will never release an average album - LUCID was a good listen. However, it marked no significant evolution in Asa’s artistry. We had heard it all before, but the strength of Asa’s fan base carried the music.
The album did well, but impact eludes it. Aside from that, it’s not a better listen than the albums in the top 10.
10.) Show Dem Camp - Clone Wars IV: These Buhari Times
In 2016, Muhammadu Buhari had only been in office for one year as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when a comical skit went viral on the internet. Nigerians in the video blamed every negativity in their lives on Buhari. We laughed about it, but the Buhari administration has been that nonsensical.
In January, Nigeria’s premier rap group Show Dem Camp announced yet another project - the fourth installment of its Clone Wars franchise. Interestingly, it had a subtitle that Nigerians would resonate with. ‘These Buhari Times’ came in the thick of Nigerian frustrations with their president.
At times, that subtitle seemed like an afterthought on an album that primarily shines on personal issues and introspects, but it was a great album. It’s only real blemish was its length.
9.) Fireboy - Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps
Once you overlook the mouthful of a title and Fireboy’s unnecessary fixation on tagging his R&B music as ‘afro-life,’ this album was a Nigerian favourite of 2019. Sometimes it faltered with a scatterbrained approach and songs that seem repetitive, but it was still an incredible experience of love, lust and attraction.
Fireboy’s debut stands him in great stead for 2020. The album has one hit in ‘Jealous.’ But as things stand, it seems we will have one or two more hits from it.
8.) Tay Iwar - GEMINI
Most people forget this album was released this year. The reason is simple; Tay Iwar only has niche recognition in Nigerian music. But if you know Iwar, you know this album was no fluke. After Passport and Renascentia, a lot of people rightly tagged Iwar, the multi-instrumentalist and sound engineer a genius.
Now 21, he released his most mature body of work till date. If he tried to merge commercial appeal with his artistry on Passport and made created musical transcendence on Renascentia, GEMINI is the diary of his growth. With it, he documented relationships, love, attraction, sex, mental health and other personal issues with incredible songwriting and production.
7.) Daramola - It’s a Double Pleasure To Deceive The Deceiver
This album flew over a lot of heads, but anybody who listened knows he got a gem. After a two-year hiatus, Daramola returned with this follow-up to the equally beautiful The Last Time I Tried.
But unlike The Last Time I Tried which was about the experiences of his early days in Miami, Florida, It’s A Double Pleasure To Deceive The Deceiver is a diary of his growth. On it, the recently married Daramola discusses love with his wife, Karen Inder and distractions in life.
6.) Remy Baggins - HENTAI
Remy Baggins is another incredibly creative music maker. Beyond being a wonderful producer, he is also a singer-songwriter who makes music with a lot of symbolism and an active imagination. He sings about sex with the joy of playing FIFA ‘19 on PS4 and discusses emotions with the detail of Robert Frost.
He then puts all those thoughts on the most ethereal production. Eigengrau, his first project which was released in 2017. At the centre of it was emotion. It closes out to the dreamy, infectious sprawl of ‘Trippy Ass Outro.’ The same year, he collaborated with Eri-Ife for the tales of a creative Nigerian generation Z. It was titled, YLLW.
In 2019, he released HENTAI on which he jettisons emotion for ruthless fixation on sex. The result is an enthralling 30-minute experience of epic proportions.
5.) Sarz and Wurld - I Like Girls With Trobul
For a long time, the criticism that dogged Sarz was that he hadn’t produced an album. Earlier in the year, he released the beat tape, Sarz Is Not Your Mate. Before then, Wurld had released Love Is Contagious in March 2019.
As they said during their listening party for I Like Girls With Trobul, they were so creatively compatible that they started making music from the first time they met. The result is an 8-track EP that again underlines Sarz’s versatility as a producer and marks Wurld’s continued effortless evolution into an afro-fusion act.
4.) Lady Donli - Enjoy Your Life
Before this album dropped, Lady Donli was undergoing a necessary evolution from an act who made good, but inaccessible music to someone who gets it. From the first single titled, ‘Cash,’ the roll-out commenced. Donli created a money-based campaign for an album titled, Enjoy Your Life. How do you enjoy your life? Money.
The album traveled through different sonic eras to give us an experience. At one time, she’s the Northern Girl. At another point, she is an R&B artist from the early 2000s. Some other time, she becomes a Nigerian folk singer with the incredible ‘Corner Corner.’ At will, she also becomes a Galala artist from the mid-2000s.
3. The Lost and Found (Paybac and Boogey) - Alternate Ending
The only album stopping this album from being the top Nigerian rap album of 2019 is the impact Falz was able to conjure with Moral Instruction. Alternate Ending is a follow-up to Face Off by The Lost and Found (Paybac and Boogey).
Both rappers had released one album and one EP each over the 18 months preceding Alternate Ending. When the album dropped, it was a masterful concept album about power and utilization. On it, Paybac and Boogey did rappity-rap, found introspect, made music and had great features. Shout-out to Majesty Lyn for ‘Memories.’
2.) Falz - Moral Instruction
Before this album dropped, Falz had rebranded himself as a socio-politically conscious person who makes music. When he dropped ‘Talk,’ the first single off the album, social media went mad with anger. ‘Feminists’ turned to Sango, spitting fire and brimstone with the thought of a five-year-old.
If one didn’t know better, he would think the album was made by Kendrick Lamar. Everyone had a take on Falz’s topical base for the album and the channeling of Fela. Ordinarily, this album might not be better than others it has toppled, but its impact cannot be denied. More importantly, it was named Album of the Year at Headies 2019.
1.) Burna Boy - African Giant
I want to write a lot about this album, but I won’t. Instead, I’m going to write the following;
African Giant is the flagship ‘Afrobeats to the world’ album. It was made by Nigeria’s best - and arguably, biggest - artist of 2019. That artist is also the poster boy for Afrobeats to the world. Most importantly, African Giant got a Grammy nomination. Nuff said.